Do you ever have those moments when you think to yourself... 'Really? What are the chances this could actually happen?' Well, today I had one of those profound experiences at WalMart (yes WalMart) and it left me in tears. Here's why...
I wanted to make snow globes with my kids this afternoon, so I headed to the store to pick up some glitter with my 3 year old. He was being such a good sport while we ran a few errands earlier that morning. We went to the bank, Wawa, and a produce store and everywhere we went he proudly sported his little fireman outfit and brought a smile to so many people's faces.
But he really did not want to go to WalMart.
Well, we went anyway. I was searching up and down the party, craft and stationary isles for glitter. I couldn't find it anywhere. My little guy was running short on patience, and he decided he didn't want to sit in the shopping cart anymore. He wanted to stand at the end of the isle with a big pout and not move.
"C'mon" I said. "As soon as we get the glitter, we're done." He didn't want to hear it. He wouldn't let me carry him. He wouldn't walk. He wouldn't get a ride on the cart. As I tried to scoop him up, he tried to run in the opposite direction. He's wandered off before, and I didn't want to take any chances, so I explained to him 'You need to stay with me, or you could get taken by a stranger.'
At that moment, an older lady with a very serious look on her face started walking towards me. She looked at me and said "That happened to my daughter in 1977 and I haven't seen her since."
You could see the sadness in her face and you could tell she was still grieving. I looked back at her and said "I am so sorry." I didn't know what else to say. She looked at my son, and then looked back at me. Very seriously, she said "I never talk to children I don't know, because I'm a stranger. But, I want you to tell him what happened to my daughter."
Tears started to fall down my cheeks. I could tell my son was startled by the whole situation, and I didn't want to upset him. But, this lady was so serious. So, I told my son that this lady lost her daughter and it's really important to stay close to mommy in the store. It was heart-wrenching. It's not something that anyone wants to talk about. It's not fun. I don't usually write about this type of thing. If this woman's story could save one child by letting people know that this really does happen, than it is worth it.
Reading these tips from the NCMEC, was a great reminder that is our job as parents not just to protect our children , but also teach them how to stay safe. Watch them closely. Hold their hands when in a crowd. Don't let them out of your sight while shopping. Talk to them about what to do if they get separated from you.
This weekend, go out and enjoy all of the fun activities that the holiday season has to offer. Enjoy the time with your family. Have fun. Just give your children the knowledge they need to protect themselves and use common sense caution.
And, if you find some white glitter can you please send it my way. Because I never did find the glitter I was looking for.